Mixing patterns and prints is a little trickier than mixing colors, as when you are mixing colors, you can use the color wheel to see what colors go together well. Prints and patterns however, are a lot of times a combination of colors to begin with; their components have shapes which you need to establish if they go together well or not and so on. If this sounds like advanced science, don’t worry, we can make it simple. In this first part of the guide, we will be looking at the basic pattern and print mixing techniques you can use to get more interesting looks!
There is no rule to how many patterns you can wear, why would there be one? You can wear patterns from head to toe or you can wear just two, which is what most people advise. In this first part, we will be only looking at pairs of two patterns, (shirt+tie) and demonstrate how you can mix patterns and prints. Patterns can be mixed with clothes in solid colors, but you can also match them to neutral colors such as black, white, gray, beige, khaki or ivory, as these colors go with anything!
We will be talking a lot about patterns and prints, so we can to explain these words a little:
A pattern is a repetitive image, it can be a geometrical one made from lines or simply a repetitive image or series of images (we will call these “representative prints”).
A print is a non-repetitive image. Prints can be geometrical, representative (a picture) or a mix of the two.
The number one rule when it comes to mixing patterns, whether we’re talking about stripes, dots or anything else is that the two patterns need to be of different sizes. Therefore, if you are wearing stripes on both your shirt and tie, they should not be of the same size. Thick stripes go well with thin stripes, and not with thick stripes.
The same “rule” applies to any kind of pattern and to prints as well. It might be hard to combine prints after this rule, but here is a trick that can help you: any image, whether it’s a work of art, an amateur painting or anything else is made from one, two or three of these elements: lines, dots and shapes. Look at their sizes of these elements and put them in relationship with the pattern/print with which you want to mix them.
Busy patterns can also be matched to more “airy” ones if you want to keep your outfits well-balanced. Of course, this is a rule you can break if you choose to match very busy patterns together, but then you need to make it consciously make sure it works.
If you are not sure on how to go about mixing patterns, you can always rely on creating a color theme. When mixing patterns, a color scheme can be done in two ways:
a) Choose a color that repeats itself. To play it safe, you can pick two very colorful prints that have a color in common and wear them together.
b) Use a color scheme. Colors come in all types of relationships: analog colors, complementary colors, split-complementary colors and so on. Apply one of these guidelines to the two patterns you want to mix and there’s no way to go wrong. This might be hard, especially if the patterns you want to wear have both several colors. In this case, you should either establish the dominant color of each piece and match them according to them, or you can first establish the relation between the colors on the first piece and match it to a piece that has a matching palette.
Whichever type of matching patterns you choose, make sure you still follow rule number one, which is that their sizes should be different!
Patterns + Representational prints
A very good way to make two pieces pop is to combine a piece with a geometrical texture with a piece with a representational print. This way, since the two looks will come from such different places, they will both stand out and pop. This is not hard to achieve, but you need to be careful with following the first two steps: make sure the sizes of the patterns are different and that they are thoughtfully color-coordinated.
To go a step further, you can choose to mix a representational pattern with a print, which is something sure to get you a very special effect and look.
Many stylists believe that when you are mixing patterns, the patterned clothes you are wearing should be made from different fabrics, as, if you wear the same fabric, it might look plain and flat. However, this is not a rule we necessarily feel you should respect, but you should try it out before and see if it works for you or not.
As you can see in this picture, we paired a shirt with a very busy pattern with a knit tie with a slightly loose print. They are color-coordinated, they use the same main color but in different shades and they are made from different fabrics, which creates volumes and gives your outfit more depth and dynamism.
Mastering patterns and prints and knowing how to match them takes effort and time and doesn’t come easy to most people, but once you get in the game and gain some practice, you won’t want to go back to wearing plain t-shirts and time soon!
In part two, we will be taking a look at other ways of mixing patterns and prints to your advantage and we’ll showcase other examples of how to do it right!
Fraquoh and Franchomme
P.S. How do you like to mix prints and patterns? Share your questions, comments or feedback in the comments below and don’t forget to subscribe to our website via e-mail and follow us on our social media!